This debut feature from Brandon Cronenberg — son of revered director David Cronenberg — is all concept and little substance. Trapped beneath the bleached-out glare of a monochromatic minimalist future — courtesy of cinematographer Karim Hussain — Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) toils in a chic clinic that dispenses celebrity diseases at a premium. If you want the strain of herpes simplex that a Lady Gaga-equivalent might possess, you can pay for the privilege. If Cronenberg’s attempt at canny social satire sounds provocative, think again - it’s not. Sophie Barthes’s “Cold Souls” (2009) — about the availability of rentable souls — makes “Antiviral” seem rudimentary by comparison, and it wasn’t even a particularly impressive movie.
Brandon Cronenberg has two significant strikes against him. He isn’t an effective screenwriter and he lacks the directorial experience to know how to mask it. As has become a trend among hipster filmmakers, “Antiviral” is completely lacking in humor. The effect is suffocating.
Creepy Syd is like a drug dealer who constantly delves into his own stash. His addiction to the viruses of his celebrity idols takes its toll. He resembles a punk rock junkie of the ‘80s era in Lower East Side Manhattan, who believes he’ll be the next Johnny Thunders if he just shoots the same kind of Chinese rock that Thunders famously sang about.
Syd makes extra money by stealing diseases from the company he works for by smuggling them out inside his body. No one said Syd was much of an empathetic protagonist. “Antiviral” is interesting for the first ten or fifteen minutes before it digresses into a slog. Boredom is the death of any movie, and this one will bore you to tears.
Not Rated. 106 mins. (D) (One Star - out of five/no halves)
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